MAGAZINE ISSUE DATE: 13 AUGUST 2005 (Vol. 187 No 2512)


CLIMATE WARNING AS SIBERIA MELTSThe world's largest frozen peat bog across the permafrost in Siberia is melting into a watery landscape of shallow lakes, according to Russian researchers. The sudden melting of the western Siberian bog could unleash billions of tonnes of trapped methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. Page 12

FLOODED METRO HELPS COOL TOKYOThe city of Tokyo is trying a new high-tech method to cool down its streets as they suffer through another sizzling summer. A solar and wind-powered pump forces subway flood water into high-pressure sprinklers that spray it over a road surface. Recently, the researchers have managed to use the system to cool a road surface by 10 °C. Page 30

PIG CELL IMPLANTS IN HUNTINGTON'S TRIAL Pig brain cells encased in a seaweed derivative could be implanted into human brains by next year if trials of a pioneering treatment for Huntington's disease are approved in the US. Results from a team in New Zealand have already shown that similar tests in primates have been "amazingly successful" . The findings reveal that brain cell damage in primates with simulated brain disease was 5 times less in animals treated with live pig cell transplants than in the control group. Page 10

WILL GOOGLE HELP SAVE THE PLANET?The ability to spin the Earth and zoom in on anything from your own backyard to the Egyptian pyramids using Google Earth is an impressive tool, and is likely to change how we search and advertise. But environmentalists are hoping it will have another effect: looking at bird's eye views of the planet may inspire people to take better care for our fragile, beautiful planet. Pages 28-29

US SHOOTS AHEAD IN STUN GUN DESIGNWeapons designed to fire "electric bullets" into crowds are being developed for police and border protection agencies in the US. Several wireless weapons are being proposed, all capable of delivering an electric shock to the target at long range. Page 30

IS JIGGLING VACUUM THE ORIGIN OF MASS?For decades, mainstream opinion has held that something called the Higgs field gives matter its mass. Now researchers in California say that mass comes from the interaction of matter with another kind of field, called the quantum vacuum. Pages 16-17

CASH AND COMPASSIONThousands of people are dying every year because there aren't enough organs available for transplantation. Mark Cherry, from the department of philosophy at Saint Edwards University in Texas, tells New Scientist that he has a radical solution to this problem. His solution is controversial: make it legal to buy and sell organs on the open market. COMMENT Page 20


THE AUTISM MYTHA rise in cases of autism being reported across the world has sparked concerns of an epidemic. Suspects to blame have included the MMR vaccine, mercury in children's shots and food allergies. But others say there is a simple explanation " there is no autism epidemic. The massive broadening of the definition of autism is the main reason for the rise in cases, according to one sceptic of the epidemic hypothesis. Pages 37-40

THE GREAT PHYSICS HEAVYWEIGHTSIn the blue corner: a multimillion dollar particle accelerator. In the red corner: one of the world's most powerful supercomputers. The two sides battled it out to see who could first calculate the lifetime of a subatomic particle. Theorists knew that if their number matched the accelerator's calculation, physicists would finally get a better picture of the strange world inside atomic nuclei " beyond any of the best theories so far. Pages 33-35

DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SETNew technology is about to breath new live to the old-fashioned AM bands " short, medium and long-wave signals. Electronics giant Texas Instruments have unveiled a chip that can squeeze high quality stereo sound into the narrow AM bands, together with a stream of additional multimedia information. Pages 44-47

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILYThe main goal in any captive breeding programme is to maximise genetic diversity, meaning avoiding inbreeding at all costs. But there is evidence that inbreeding is not all bad, and occurs frequently among plants and animals in the wild. Now conservation biologists are wondering whether, for some animals, inbreeding could be their best chance of survival. Pages 41-43


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